Citizens Property Insurance Corporation v. Admiralty House, Inc., 66 So. 3d 342 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011).
The policyholder demanded appraisal on a supplemental claim for hurricane damage. In accordance with the insurance policy, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (“Citizens”) requested a sworn statement in proof of loss, supporting documentation, an examination under oath, and an inspection of the policyholder’s books and records. Citizens ultimately denied the claim based on the policyholder’s failure to comply with its post-loss obligations. The policyholder sued for breach of contract and declaratory judgment to determine, among other things, whether the policyholder was entitled to appraisal. After the policyholder moved to compel appraisal, Citizens argued that an evidentiary hearing was necessary to determine whether the policyholder complied with its post-loss conditions. The trial court compelled appraisal without taking evidence. Citizens appealed.
Appraisal is not ripe unless the policyholder has complied with all post-loss conditions, and the insurer has a reasonable opportunity to investigate and adjust the claim. For this reason, before compelling appraisal, trial courts must make a preliminary determination as to whether the policyholder has complied with its post-loss obligations. But the Second District Court of Appeal held that the trial court should have made this preliminary determination before granting the policyholder’s motion to compel appraisal. Thus, the court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing.
The Second District noted that the policyholder had not waived its right to appraisal by invoking the appraisal clause in its count for declaratory judgment. The court also recognized that Citizens, as a public body, was entitled to an automatic stay of the appraisal proceedings under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2).
Appellate Counsel: J. Pablo Caceres and Lori A. Vella of Butler Pappas Weihmuller Katz Craig, LLP, Tampa, for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.